iPad Buying Guide: iPad vs iPad Pro vs iPad mini

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With four different models in five sizes and prices ranging from $329 to $1,899, there are plenty of iPad options to choose from. That's a good thing, but how do you decide which one to buy? Use our handy iPad buying guide to get the right Apple slate for your needs and budget.

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News and Updates (November 2018)

  • Check out our review of the new 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which features the super-fast A12X Bionic CPU, USB Type-C and much, much more.

iPad Models Compared

The iPad lineup is made up of three families: the iPad Pro, the iPad mini and the regular, 9.7-inch iPad. But as you drill down to the individual models, you'll find plenty of variety in specs, features and price. Here's a quick breakdown.

  iPad Pro
12.9-inch
iPad Pro
11-inch
iPad Pro
10.5-inch
iPad iPad mini 4
Best For Laptop Replacement, Professional Artists  Laptop Replacement, Professional Artists Note-Taking, Light Productivity Media Consumption, Gaming Reading, Email, Social Media, Light Gaming
Starting
Price
$999 $799  $649 $329 ($299 for schools) $399
Screen 12.9 inches
(2732 x 2048)
11 inches (2388 x 1688)   10.5 inches
(2224 x 1668)
9.7 inches
(2048 x 1536)

7.9 inches
(2048 x 1536)

Battery Life  13:14 (tested) 10 hours (claimed)  13:55   10:07 9:23 
Processor A12X Bionic A12X Bionic  A10X A10 A8
Storage 64GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB 64GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB  64GB, 256GB, 512GB 32GB, 128GB 128GB
Cameras
(Rear / Front)
12 MP, 7MP  12 MP, 7MP 12 MP, 7MP 8 MP, 1.2 MP 8 MP. 1.2 MP
Video
Recording
4K  4K 4K 1080p 1080p
Color
Options
Silver, Space Gray  Silver, Space Gray Silver, Space Gray, Gold, Rose Gold Silver, Space Gray, Gold Silver, Space Gray, Gold
Touch ID Face ID Face ID  Yes Yes Yes
Pencil
Supported
Yes Yes  Yes Yes No
Dimensions 11 x 8.5 x 0.2 inches 9.7 x 7 x 0.2 inches  9.8 x 6.8 x 0.24 inches 9.4 x 6.6 x 0.29 inches  7.9 x 5.3 x 0.29 inches 
Weight 1.53 pounds  1.4 pounds 1.05
pounds 
1.03 pounds  0.73 pounds

Common Features

All iPads provide access to more than 1 million apps optimized for the big screen, which is far more than what Android or Windows devices offer. You can also expect a high-quality aluminum unibody design and a bright and crisp display.

The tablets all come with iOS 12, the latest version of Apple's mobile OS. Key features include a Files app for organizing your documents and projects, a Dock that makes iOS feel more like macOS and the ability to drag and drop text, photos and files.

Also note that all iPad models can be ordered with 4G LTE capability, which allows you to get online when you're out of Wi-Fi range. You'll pay $139 more than you would for the Wi-Fi-only version, plus the cost of whatever monthly data plan you sign up for.

iPad (9.7-inch)

Simply called the "iPad," this 9.7-inch slate is the most affordable Apple tablet, with a starting price of just $329. Despite its lower price, the iPad has plenty of premium specs, including a 2048 x 1536 retina display, a speedy A10 processor, Apple Pencil support and dual 8-MP / 1.2-MP cameras. It comes in Silver, Space Gray and Gold colors in either 32 or 128GB capacity. Apple claims that the 2018 version of the iPad will provide up to 10 hours of endurance, but if it's anything like the 2017 model, the numbers could be even higher as that last generation tablet lasted 12 hours and 59 minutes on the Laptop Mag Battery Test.

Apple is also targeting schools with the latest version of the iPad, offering educators the opportunity to buy this slate for just $299 and providing a host of education apps. 

Best For: Because of its relatively low price and generous screen size, the iPad is a great choice for media consumption, gaming, social media and some light productivity (email, note taking without a pen). Though the iPad mini 4 is a better size for small hands, many parents will prefer the iPad's lower price when choosing a slate for their kids. College students on a budget will also find this model appealing. 

10.5-inch iPad Pro

The 10.5-inch iPad Pro is the cheapest iPad Pro at $649. When paired with the Apple Pencil and Smart Keyboard, it becomes a solid 2-in-1. The key differences between it and the $329-inch iPad are its higher price, 3+ hours of additional battery life and support for the Smart Keyboard.

Best For: If you need to take a lot of notes or require a tablet for business purposes -- editing and showing presentations, clipboard use, etc -- but you don't run the most-demanding apps.

11-inch iPad Pro (2018)

This is what happens when you take the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, increase its screen, shrink its bezels and swap its home button out for Face ID. Oh, and then there's the Ferrari engine under the hood: Apple's given the 2018 iPad Pros the fastest chip its ever made: the phenomenal A12X Bionic processor. Not only will it run the forthcoming Photoshop CC smoothly, but the company says it will provide gaming performance on par with an Xbox. While we can't wait to test that claim, it's certain that speed-demons will want this iPad Pro, especially if portability is a priority.

And if you use the Apple Pencil, you definitely want one of the new iPad Pros. The 2nd Generation Apple Pencil is only compatible with the 11-inch iPad Pro and its larger sibling, so if you want its seamless magnetic docking, charging and pairing, you won't want to get the older 10.5-inch iPad Pro. If you already own a 4K display you can connect to via USB Type-C, it may make sense to buy this over the larger sibling, as you already own a giant screen.

Best For: Creative pros who love their styli, want a smaller device and push their iPad to the limits. Also, pros on a budget will go for this model, as it's just as fast and capable, but starts at $200 less and its $179 Smart Keyboard Folio is $20 less than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro's keyboard cover.

12.9-inch iPad Pro (2018)

If you think bigger is better, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro is the best. Not only does it have the speedy A12X chip that the 11-inch iPad Pro offers, but its 2732 x 2048-pixel Liquid Retina, edge-to-edge panel is the largest digital canvas that apple offers. But that size doesn't ruin its portability, as it's a mere 0.4 pounds heavier than the 11-inch iPad Pro, and just as thin at 0.23 inches.

And about that A12X processor, our tests showed that the new iPad Pro is faster at image editing than actual laptops, including the Surface Pro 6 and the Core i7 Dell XPS 13. And with 13+ hours of battery life, it also outlasts both of those PCs.

The 2nd Generation Apple Pencil (sold separately for $129) packs gesture-based tricks in its barrel, and a charging method that won't feel like you're breaking it (I'm looking at you, iPad and 10.5-inch iPad Pro). Also, that A12X processor can handle anything you throw at it. If you add the $199 Smart Keyboard, you've got a 2-in-1 that might be able to rival your laptop. 

Best For: Those demanding creative pros who want the best iPad experience possible. Not only is it super-fast, but its larger screen — both in inches and pixels — provides the largest canvas for professional artists and video editors to do their work.

iPad mini 4

If you're looking for a more purse-friendly tablet with a stunning screen, the iPad mini 4 may be the device for you. It features the same pixel resolution as the larger iPad model on a smaller, 7.9-inch display. It also includes the same 8-MP and 1.2-MP cameras found in the 9.7-inch iPad, but its more compact size may be more suitable for small or childlike hands

Best For: If you like to read on the couch, in bed or on the go, the mini 4 is a great size for books, especially comic books. Its relatively small screen makes it easy to type quick social media posts or send off emails, during one handed use or while standing up. The mini 4 is the best size for kids, but parents may prefer to get the less-expensive iPad 9.7-inch. 

Author Bio
Henry T. Casey
Henry T. Casey,
Henry is a senior writer at Laptop Mag, covering security, Apple and operating systems. Prior to joining Laptop Mag — where he's the self-described Rare Oreo Expert — he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. You can find him at your local pro wrestling events, and wondering why Apple decided to ditch its MagSafe power adapters.
Henry T. Casey, on
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12 comments
  • Gillian Says:

    I'm wanting to buy a tablet basically for using one drive , messages, photos, so don't want to pay a lot of money, what should I buy

  • Logan Antus Says:

    I feel that the iPads that were shown for 2017 were exceptionally the best choices for their prices, productivity, and of course, its entertainment capabilities. I have had a good look at Youtube reviews on this, and I see people enjoying themselves with this device. I am hoping to get one of these devices soon, so this article guide has helped me a lot. With what this guide says, I am considering to get the iPad Pro (9.7 -Inch) for its capable performance in gaming, processing power, and how it can hold a strong battery life all the while even though applications can still run at high speeds.

  • Joe Bean Says:

    Oh, I just saw the new article from Andrew E. Freedman about the fact the new Ipad doesn't have laminated screen or anti-reflective coating. That is pretty bad. Likely something people won't be aware of when they buy, but when you look at the screen for a long time, it is much better to get anti-reflective coating.

  • Joe Bean Says:

    The new Ipad is a good budget option. The Air 2 is a bit nicer for its lightness, but the overall value is better with the new Ipad.

    Maybe Apple realizes they won't sell a lot of Ipads Pro at the price they charge for.

    The one that looks bad is the mini 4, which sounds even less appealing than before with its huge price tag for 16GB and slow processor when you get 32GB, bigger screen and faster cpu for less money with the new Ipad. Mini is sometimes hard to read. The mini 2 with 32GB was an ok budget option when all others where way too expensive. Now, the mini format is dead until they produce something better or cheaper.

    As for Ipad Pro being a laptop replacement? Not for me. It is still an Ipad with all its limitations, even if a fast one with a big screen. It is a great product, but not a laptop replacement for me and way too expensive. The new cheap Ipad is the way to go!

  • James Vazquez Says:

    The number of available apps in the Google Play Store surpassed 1 million apps in July 2013 and was most recently placed at 2.6 million apps in December 2016.

  • Mark I Lawmaster Says:

    Which of the iPads is right for me? NONE!!! Ill spend the same amount of money for about 2-3x the performance of a Samsung Galaxy Note pro 12.2 with the S Pen included. Apple can go suck apples! ;-) have a blessed day everyone. Just another friendly Android fanboy.

  • John O Says:

    The weight for the iPad Air 2 is incorrect.

  • simon Says:

    your specs are wrong - the pro 12 inch CANNOT have the same dimensions as the pro 9.7
    Also the weights are wrong

  • francois misson Says:

    I wout like to know the of the iPad 12.9 inches

  • angela burton Says:

    I have a ipad 9" or so an I need some information.i think it's 16gb.can u give information on it.

  • wade Says:

    No where can I find where to buy an Apple Wi-Fi 3g or 4g Ipad with true GPS capability by model number or store where they can be purchased. Approx cost would be nice. Any help is appreciated

  • Rahul Says:

    Personally I would prefer the iPad Air simply because of the low weight compared to previous models. The bezel is thin but iOS 7 is optimized to detect fingers obstructing the screen and still stay away from causing any problem. The iPad Mini with retina display is good but sometimes I feel it's just too small for the complete tablet experience.

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